Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cause for Celebration

Just a quick update....we've had a couple of reasons lately for small celebrations!

1.  Lightning's heartworm test came back negative.  I'm so relieved. 

2.  I started obedience traning with Thumper.  We took a walk a few days ago and he actually walked on a leash without trying to choke himself!  I'm sure you have seen one of those dogs who stretches as far as head as possible and in the process chokes off his wind pipe so he breathes like an out of shape person doing P90X?  This time we got through most of the walk without him doing that.  Yay!  That's a great start.

Have a good week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Year 1, the Wrap-up

So, here I am.  One year after, and here it is a nutshell:  I didn't know what I was getting into when we adopted Thumper.

The dogs got along well.  The boys loved the dogs.  Thumper bonded with his new dad.  In spite of being the one to find Thumper, I was slow to grow attached to him.  Quite possibly because for the first months, he was nothing but one more thing to take care of.

After the excitement died down, we learned that Thumper had itch problems.  Some skin issues had been visible at adoption, but no one told is he scratched ALL THE TIME.  Having him in the house at night was like having a new born.  He would claw and scratch endlessly.  I would chase him with the anti-itch calming spray.  I didn't know if he really itched or if it was a nervous habit.  He smelled bad, too, and not just wet-dog bad.  The vet checked him for yeast and God knows what else, and concluded it was allergies.  Great.  An allergic dog in Louisiana, allergy capital of the South.  The vet's recommendation:  Give him steroids and allergy meds, and there was really nothing else to do.  Thumper took one round of steroids.  I gave him Benadryl at night to stop the itching and to make him sleep.  I was afraid to continue with steroids due to the health implications of using steroids longterm.  After wearing out Google researching itchy smelly dogs and trying fish oil, omega3 pills, plain yogurt, Dinovite, premium dog foods with no grain,  and any other holistic canine itch treatment I could find, the itching got better and so did the smell.  We are approaching allergy season again, so we'll know soon if better nutrition really helped him or if allergy season had just passed.

Then there was the worms.  I itch just thinking about it.  Of course, he shared those with Lightning.  In all the years I've had dogs, I had never had to treat one for worms.  EWWWWW.  So, another vet trip, another vet bill (worms pills cost ALOT more than I thought they would), and two Comfortis prescriptions later, the worms were addressed.

He also TORE THE HOUSE APART whenever he got the chance.  Prior to being crated when we out of the house (yes, I should have known better), I came home one day and found the downstairs a mess.  I honestly thought someone had broken in.  Books, DVDS, game stuff, etc, had all been pulled off the shelves and spread all over the family room and dining room.  Pillows were pulled off the couch, and blankets had been scattered EVERYWHERE.  Lightning ran and hid.  Thumper proudly plopped his tush down and grinned.  Ugh.  He got a crate.  Immediately.

Then, last Saturday, he went for his one year vet trip.  I was proud of how far he (and we!) had come.  He is healthy and happy and loves life.  I wanted to get this vet's opinion on the pellet in his leg (leave it....she said removing it would be like a treasure hunt) and his broken bottom incisors (they are OK until they begin to show signs of infection).  Then she gave me the bad news:

Thumper has heart worms.

My heart sank.  She says he likely had them when we adopted him, but they were not developed enough to be detected.  Or, the heart worm preventive he's been on did not work.  The how doesn't really matter....other than Lightning may have them too, if the problem is the medicine.  Treatment will be several courses of antibiotic coupled with a new heartworm/flea/other worm treatment (Advantage Multi).  It's a slow kill method that is easier on the dog.  The vet recommends it when heartworms are caught early.  Retesting every 6 months will show how the treatment is progressing.  The vet's experience is that in 12-18 months, most dogs are free of heartworms.

Lightning goes for a check up Saturday.  I hope he doesn't have them, too.

Like I said, I had no idea what I was getting into when we adopted Thumper.  I thought I had asked all the right questions and the foster mom had given us full disclosure.  Maybe she did...I like to think so, anyway.  To people who want to adopt a rescue dog, I would simply say to be prepared for anything.  Mentally, behaviorally, physically, you really won't know what you are getting for some time after you get home.  I guess it's like that with anything new, isn't it?  I do believe he is where he is supposed to be.  I can't imagine our house without him.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Year 1, Part 2

Thanks for all the kind comments.  I hope the rest of the story lives up to the standard of the previous entry!

Part 2:  Coming Home

So, after work that evening we went to the foster mom's house as we had planned.  It was after dark when we got there, and she welcomed us in to her home.  She had several animals - 3 cats and 4 dogs.  Some were her family's and others were fosters.  Plus her young children were there.  Dogs were barking, cats running, kids screaming.....it was chaos.  After putting most of the dogs out to run in the yard, she called over the only dog she had left in the house.  He came trotting over, tongue hanging out and tail wagging.  And then he sat down in front of me.

The foster mom and my husband were talking, but I wasn't paying much attention to what they were saying.  Knowing my husband and his gift of gab, it was probably mostly small talk.  I was checking out the dog.  He WAS skinny.  I could feel his ribs.  He still seemed shy but the tail wouldn't stop wagging.  He was an affectionate little thing.  His coat was thin, too, and coarse.  He still avoided making eye contact, but he gladly rolled over for a belly rub.   Then it was my husband's turn to check him out.  As I talked to his foster mom, I remember hearing a wild hiss followed by a sharp yelp and rapidly retreating doggie feet.  One of the cats (thank goodness they were declawed!) had decided to "play" with him and had smacked him in the face.  Now that I know Thumper and how he "plays" with cats, I'm sure that one had been biding its time, waiting to get revenge.  That was its last chance, because by then, we had decided that we couldn't leave without him.  So we finished up busy and took our new boy home.  

I was surprised by how readily he left with us.  He jumped in the car to go and showed no sadness at leaving his foster home.  Once he got home, he and Lightning adapted to their new living arrangement well.  Lightning had been an only dog for 4 years, and while he wasn't thrilled with having to share the attention, pets, and food, he seemed to enjoy having another dog to play with.  

Our biggest problem - and one we still deal with - was Thumper's hoarding.  If he saw a toy, it was is.  If he saw a bone, it was his.  Lightning "lost" all of his balls and bones to Thumper, and being the not-alpha-dog that he is, he just tucked his ears and let him keep it.  That behavior really aggravates me, but as I thought about it, I realized that's probably how he survived when he was running loose.  So I saw this as the first of the challenges we would have with a dog whose background we did not really know:  we would have to make him feel safe so he could grow beyond the survival mode he had been living in.  

Next:  Dealing with health surprises of a rescue dog

Here are some pictures from Thumper's first days with us:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Year 1, Part 1

We are approaching Thumper's first Gotcha Day.  Since this blog is supposed to be about the life of rescue dogs, I've decided to dedicate the next few posts to our first year with Thumper.  You'll read his story - how he came to us, the challenges he brought, and how we made it through Year 1 with Thumper.

Here we go.....

The first time I saw the dog we would name Thumper, I was walking out of Petsmart with Lightning.  We had stopped there to buy training treats for agility class.  I usually went to Petsmart only when it wasn't adoption day, but this day, I screwed up.  As I was walking out, volunteers were walking in with their foster dogs.  

I'm a sucker for dogs.  Any dog, but especially those in need.  I know this about myself, and I was determined that my next dog would be a full blooded Border Collie, so I could pursue my dream of competing in dog agility.  My husband, on the other hand, was determined that our next dog would be a Golden Retriever, so he would have a big furry lovable affection obedient teddy bear again.  Another dog of questionable parentage was not in the plan (Lightning's mixed breed weirdness is still vivid in both our memories...but that's a different blog entry entirely).  Keeping all this in mind, I was trying to get out of there before seeing the poor animals.  

It didn't work.  I was almost out the door when one dog caught my eye.  He was walked in by his foster dad.  He walked very well on a leash.  He was a about a 50 lb dog but he looked young, like an overgrown puppy.  He walked with downcast eyes and would only hesitantly look around him.  I stopped and watched.  The escort walked the dog in and placed him in a crate.  The dog sat down.  He wasn't looking around like most of the other dogs were, but he didn't show signs of stress either.  No panting, whining, cowering, or pawing at the cage.  He just sat there.  I walked over to look closer.  I talked to him and tried to pet him through the cage.  He was very reserved and was hesitant to look at me or in any way respond.  But Lightning was there, and they sniffed noses.  He was friendlier with dogs than with people.  He looked a lot like a Golden Retriever, but he was very skinny, and his coat and skin was not in the best of condition, so it was really hard to tell.  Regardless of breed, this dog was getting to me.     

I was not about to impulsively adopt this dog.  Especially since my hubby and I each had different pure-bred plans for our next dog.  I did note the rescue organization's name and got their phone number.  Then Lightning and I left and went about our day.

I told my husband about the dog.  That dog weighed on my mind all day that day.  And the next day.  And the next.  Eventually my husband called the agency and found out about the dog (without me knowing, of course).  He had been found before Christmas, wandering around with another dog.  The dog's owner hadn't come forward in the month since he had been found.  He was underweight but generally healthy and had just been neutered.  He was housebroken and kennel trained.  He was possibly a Golden Retriever.  The hubby was sold and set up an appointment to see him (without me knowing, of course).  We were going that night, after he got off work.  I'm not clairvoyant, but I could have told you when I got that phone call:  We were adopting a dog that night.    

NEXT INSTALLMENT:  Our First REAL Meeting and Pictures


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Afternoon Freedom

So, this week all the people went back to work and school.  The dogs got "their" house back to sleep all day, which I think they must do because by the time we get home, they just want outside to run and play.  Yesterday, Lightning was the first out the door (that's unusual).  As soon as he reached the grass, he dropped his rear and scooted along the ground.  I'm SO glad he waited until he was outside to do that.  About that time, Thunder had finished his first round around the yard (searching for squirrels and cat scents, I guess).  He reached the area where Lightning's rear had been, and he stopped.  Sniffed.  And then dropped his shoulders and plowed right through the grass.  It was one of those, "What IS that smell?  I have to ROLL in it!" moments.  Nice.  At least wasn't something really stinky, but it still kinda made me gag.  

Today I'm procrastinating.  I have absolutely no desire to go the grocery store or do the laundry.  I'm sure I'll pay for my laziness before the weekend is over, possibly when we have nothing for dinner tonight or tomorrow morning when no one has clean socks or pants to wear to church.  Today would be a good day to learn from the dogs - play while it's sunny, nap when you're tired, eat when you're hungry.  In spite of their gross primal urge to roll in stinky stuff, we people could learn alot of them.  **sigh**  No more philosophizing today....I have barking dogs to get in the house before my not-so-nice neighbor makes a scene (can you believe she once threatened to call the cops because Thumper was barking?).  

Have a good Saturday, and may we all get some work and play in today.